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2012 Smartphone Comparison Guide


November 7, 2012

How do 2012's best smartphones stack up?

How do 2012's best smartphones stack up?

Image Gallery (11 images)

Update: Please refer to our updated 2013 Smartphone Comparison Guide for newer phones.

In just five years, smartphones have gone from expensive novelties to fundamental parts of our lives. If you're shopping for a new smartphone, the choices can be daunting. How do you sort through the mess? Our 2012 Smartphone Comparison Guide is designed to help you decide which model is best for you.

If we included every smartphone, you'd need to read this on a screen the size of a billboard. So we narrowed it down to six of the top smartphones of 2012:

  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
  • Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD
  • HTC One X+
  • Nokia Lumia 920
  • Google/LG Nexus 4

Specs aren't everything, but they can suggest a device's capabilities. We break down the most important measurable categories, as well as those hard-to-define intangibles.

Without further ado, let's compare the top smartphones of 2012.


In terms of surface area, the Galaxy S III is the biggest, and the iPhone 5 is the smallest. The iPhone 5 is also the thinnest, while the chunky Lumia 920 is the thickest.


If you want light, the iPhone 5 delivers. The Lumia 920, meanwhile, is incredibly heavy for a 2012 smartphone. When it's in your pocket, you'll know it.


Smartphone displays have officially been super-sized. The iPhone 5, with Apple's largest ever phone display, is still a half-inch smaller than the next smallest in this group.

All of these phones should provide razor-sharp text and images.


There's also nothing to worry about here. All six phones should deliver good to great performance.


These numbers should also mean good to great performance.


For most customers, 16 GB is a good amount of storage. If you store lots of apps, videos, or music, you might want to get more – and avoid the 8 GB Nexus 4.


All but one of our phones support LTE, the fastest and best mobile data network. The Nexus 4 is instead compatible with HSPA+: it can theoretically be as fast as LTE, but it typically won't be.


Many factors can influence battery life, so take these numbers with a few grains of salt. All of the phones should get you through the day with normal use. If you want the longest possible battery life, you might want to check out the Razr Maxx HD.


All the phones should take great pictures with their rear cameras, and allow for HD video chat with the front cameras.


That passionate bald man is Sir Jony Ive, Apple's head of design. The iPhone 5 may be his masterpiece, with its premium materials and design. Most of the other phones have plastic backs, but the iPhone 5's is made of anodized aluminum.

Though the Nexus 4 may steal its crown, the Galaxy S III has spent the last few months as the King of Android. Samsung is the only Android manufacturer that is doing well, and the S3 is its flagship.

It's not often that you see battery life marketed as a killer feature, but that's what Motorola did with the Razr Maxx HD. Other phones will get you through the day with above average use. It may get you through two days with above average use.

The One X+ ships with Dr. Dre's Beats Audio technology. If you own Beats headphones, your music may sound better. Chances are, though, this isn't something most will be basing their purchase on.

You may not see any tumbleweeds blowing around the Windows Phone Marketplace, but the Lumia 920 is still at a big disadvantage. Windows Phone is much newer than iOS and Android, and its app selection isn't on par with its competitors.

The Nexus 4 ships with the latest version of Android, 4.2 Jellybean. Since it runs stock (no manufacturer UI) Android, it will also receive future updates much quicker than other Android phones.

The Nexus 4 also sells cheaply off-contract. For US$300 – only $100 more than most cost on-contract – you can buy the Nexus 4 with no strings attached. Just remember that 8 GB of storage isn't a lot, and the 16 GB model costs an extra $50.

Summing up

This holiday season is a great time to shop for a new smartphone. Sharp displays, great cameras, and zippy performance are now the norm. The choices can be overwhelming, but these six phones – each with its own pros and cons – represent the best of the best. Hopefully the above information makes the selection process a little less daunting.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica. All articles by Will Shanklin

The best feature any phone can offer is a contract free price to beat them all...these phones are all outstanding devices, hardware has become a non issue between these...so it's price that wins or loses the day, and not just the cost of the phone, but the cost of the contract! The contract is the mortgage payment of the smart phone world...hardly anyone considers this, they just want the shiniest device... Most people won't even need 4G service as much as they think, what we need is a software solution to switch over to WiFi when and where it's available without user intervention...WiFi is nearly everywhere now in urban settings, and it's going to continue to spread at faster and faster rates...in my city i don't need 4G, it seems everywhere i go from home, to coffee shops, to work all have free WiFi... Who uses 4G while driving, or walking? You're probably sitting down somewhere a WiFi signal reaches... I want the Samsung S3...but i won't sign a two year enslavement, The Nexus 4 is just as great and i can get it for 300 dollars and no contract...metro pcs has a $40 a month unlimited plan for phone and text, the phone itself has integrated WiFi for internet features...this means i have a great phone for 300 and a monthly bill of 40 bucks...I win.

John Parkes

John, I use 4G while driving (navigation, a huge advantage for the android phones - since apple charges $20 a month for something that is filled with bugs and has been free on Google since maps went to android) while on public transit (checking email, news, etc. on my commute)...

BUT I totally agree that the N4 is likely a better phone (I am using the Galaxy Nexus, and the advantage of an off-the-shelf Android only phone is more than you might think), and 3G is fine (LTE kills my battery in 8 hours anyway with my use patterns, so I am mostly on CDMA). Verizon's coverage isn't so much better in-city either (at least in the two cities where I've had Verizon), despite their lofty claims, and I am mostly on WiFi at work and home. Metro PCS or Virgin Mobile look pretty good right now.

Google Voice was pretty close to being able to call over WiFi or network automatically, but then Google moved away from that. Shame.

Charles Bosse

Well written Will. That is the best way to do a comparison test..... line them up like a firing squad and attack its best and worst features and performance.


Totally left out any info on the Lumia, like the fastest screen refresh rate of any phone, the best camera of any phone, the screen can be used with gloves which can come in handy now that we are close to winter. You left out wireless charging and NFC too. If you are going to compare phones, might as well go in depth and not just say "you'll be ok with this" If people look up phones they want to know EVERYTHING, so stop skimping out.

Hector Garcia

I have a Nexus 4, and I'm very disappointed with its Bluetooth performance. Everything about this phone is great but they have a real problem with the Bluetooth. I have gone through 4 phones and no fix. Every time I call Google Support the options they offer are get a replacement device or refund and they don't have a fix. basically the Bluetooth doesn't automatically connect to my car and it's hard to get it connected again and now I have a new problem. the Bluetooth doesn't turn on all together. Sigh :(

Sara Sarkhili
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